Electronic reminders seem to be essential to keeping patients engaged in reading their physicians' notes, according to a study on the OpenNotes program.
The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, examined 14,000 patients at Beth Israel Deaconess and at Geisinger Health System who have access to the notes their doctors keep in their files.
Doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess sent reminders for the two years of the study; Geisinger sent no reminders after the first year.
During the first 12 months, 53.7 percent of the patients at Beth Israel Deaconess and 60.9 percent at Geisinger checked their doctors' notes within 30 days of a reminder. Beth Israel Deaconess patients viewed their notes with the same frequency until a slight decline during the final three months. At Geisinger, however, just 13.2 percent of patients continued viewing their notes once they no longer received email reminders.
The study also found that 55.1 percent of white patients viewed their notes, compared with 36.3 percent of black patients, which the authors say mirrors ethnic disparities noted previously about patient portals.
"The key lessons of our study are that sending reminders to patients to view their medical notes may be essential to promoting patient engagement and improving patient-doctor communication, and that new health technology implementation requires additional efforts to reduce potential disparities in health," John Mafi, a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, says in an announcement.
Previous research found OpenNotes participants better understood their treatment plans, felt more in control of their care and were more likely to take their medications, while doctors reported little effect on their workflow.
More than 5 million patients have access to their records through the OpenNotes program. Four nonprofit organizations recently pledged $10 million to expand the program to 50 million patients.